On hold for the holidays

I think this is where I say goodbye for now. For the last couple of months my head has not been in it when it comes to writing up about unusual food. It has become somewhat of a chore. Over the next few months I’m going to focus on doing the things that I love, which still involve a heavy dose of food and travel. I’m going to Bangkok in early July and have reservation at Gaggan which currently sits at number 4 as best restaurant in the world. Then my parents are coming over to China, and I’m going to spend some quality time with them. In August I’ll go back to Japan for a visit, the country that I love so much, and the end of August will mark my first ever visit to the African continent with a trip to South Africa. In September I hope to be refreshed enough to start writing again. Surely Japan will give me lots of inspiration as it has before, and perhaps I’ll even get to bite into some zebra steaks while I’m in Africa.

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Wasabi Chocolate

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I have a bit of a love hate relationship with wasabi, but I do have a love love relationship with chocolate, so when Dove recently released a range of chocolates with unusual fillings I was both looking forward to and dreading the wasabi chocolate at the same time. This time around Dove went for individual chocolates instead of a bar.

I’ve had a few instances where I took too much wasabi and it blew my head off, which is why I usually don’t bother putting any on my sushi, let alone my chocolates, but I threw caution in the wind and had a go anyway. It turns out bitter chocolate and sharp wasabi is a great combination, just like the chili chocolate from Mexico. You could taste the wasabi, and it did carry a punch, but not exactly a sharp right hook. Not only was the heat level bearable, I actually rather enjoyed this flavor combination.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 8

Egg yolk stuffed chicken fingers

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On my way to Shanghai last week I was forced to have dinner at the airport, as I didn’t have time to eat before. There are only a handful of options, so I stepped inside the Burger King. Of course I ordered a burger, but I also spotted something new on the menu: Salted egg yolk stuffed chicken fingers.

They came out in a box with only four chicken fingers, but they were giant ones. As I bit into one, I could definitely taste something eggy. It wasn’t exactly runny like an uncooked egg yolk, but more like a custard. It actually tasted quite nice. It was jus a shame that the coating on the outside wasn’t crispy.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Beetroot sorbet

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When it comes to a great dining experience, I can always recommend visiting a restaurant by Jason Atherton. The Gordon Ramsay scholar has set up a chain of restaurants across the globe with an emphasis on sharing plates. I had already had great nights at his restaurants in London and Hong Kong and this week I finally got to visit Commune Social in Shanghai.

I ordered a couple of savory dishes including an amazing venison stew, and a rare beef with dehydrated mushrooms. For dessert picked the beetroot brownie with merengue and beetroot stew. I was expecting a mix of sweet and savory, but I was blown away by how well everything worked together.

The beetroot sorbet on its own definitely tasted of beetroot. It had that characteristic earthiness with just a hint of sweetness. When eating the brownie, sorbet and meringue all together, hat savory note went to the background and the sweetness took over. This was a proper dessert, one that leaves me craving for more beetroot in my desserts.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 9

Butter caramel chips

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I haven’t written up many potato chips lately as I wanted to focus more on things that people might not easily be persuaded to eat, such as worms, crickets and donkey. I came across a tube of Pringles the other day though that I couldn’t resist. Butter caramel chips.

I had tried honey flavored ones before, which were not bad at all, so I went in with high expectations. Expectations that were not met. The taste was so flat. I couldn’t taste any caramel or any butter, just a very faint sweetness. Without the usual amount if salt it ha almost no flavor whatsoever, which made it a sad affair.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 5

Donkey meat

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When my boss took me out to dinner, it wasn’t just all finch eggs, there was meat as well. Donkey meat to be more specific. This may seem strange to many people, but donkey is eaten around he world. Take Mantova in Italy for example. I had actually eaten donkey before in Beijing, but that was before I had this blog and without any photographic evidence.

In this case, like revenge, the donkey meat was served cold. I wasn’t sure if it was cooked or not as it seemed more like corned beef. The meat was tender, with a slight chew. I just didn’t like the chewy skin that was left on there, but that was easily taken off. I would say it didn’t taste any different than beef. Perhaps it was a tiny bit more acidic, but that could be the curing.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Finch eggs

 

FullSizeRenderPppMy boss decided to take me out to dinner the other week, and treat me to a nice Chinese meal. As I couldn’t read the menu, she ordered for us. My friend who was with me had a translation app and discovered that the egg dish she ordered was made of finch eggs. I’ve eaten a lot of strange things, but that still managed to take me by surprise. I didn’t think people would actually eat those.

The dish arrived with a pair of whistling finches as decorations. Toy ones, obviously. I had thought maybe the word finch was a poor translation, but that clearly wasn’t the case. The eggs were treated as scotch eggs, packed in prawn mousse and then deep fried. I don’t normally like prawn or shrimp much, but in this case I rather enjoyed the whole thing. Let’s just pretend they were quail’s eggs.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Yak jerky

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One of our local delicacies here in this part of China is yak, and specifically yak jerky. Although I had brought some back home to give o my family and friends, I never actually tried some myself. I had tried yak yak meat, yogurt and milk, but not this dried meat snack. Finally my curiosity got the better of me and I went to the supermarket to buy a pack.

It turns out it’s not really jerky at all. Sure, it’s dried meat, but only partially dried I would say. Even though it’s definitely chewy, there’s still some moisture in there. You had to chew it, but not nearly as long as regular jerky. The flavor was identical to beef, but spiced up a bit with a sweet and sticky coating. I can see why my dad said he liked this so much.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9

Beanboozled jelly beans

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When I visited Universal Studios in Japan I bought some Bernie Bott’s Ever Flavored beans  which came in such delightful flavors as soap, earthworm and puke. During my latest trip to America I found a similar product in a candy shop, beanboozled jelly beans. The idea here is that there are two jelly beans of the same color, so you won’t know which is which.

After my party guests were brave enough to munch on crickets, I brought out this soon to be party favorite. Everybody agreed to take part. In this box you could find, if you were unlucky, such flavors as toothpaste, grass, spoilt milk, stinky socks and once again puke.

I was (un)fortunate enough to get spoilt milk, toothpaste, rotten fish and a few other ones, but at least didn’t have to deal with stinky socks or puke. They all taste pretty much exactly like what was promised. In the case of toothpaste that was actually quite pleasant. Grass was nice too. Spoilt milk was tolerable, but not something I’d wanna eat again. Rotten fish though, was utterly disgusting. It really tasted like old fish, which you may imagine is rather nasty. Still a very successful evening thanks to these magic beans.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 9

Ethiopian spiced butter

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One of my closest friends here in China is from Ethiopia. He’s doing a PhD at the university I teach at. He has cooked Ethiopian food once or twice, which was a great experience. Recently he gave me a bowl of Ethiopian spiced butter called ‘niter kibbeh’. This is a clarified butter infused with lots of spices such as cardamom, cumin and garlic. It is a deep yellow in color and has a distinctive strongly fragrant smell which reminds me of a curry.

In Ethiopia people use it on pretty much everything. You can use it to fry just about anything, and it will give of a nice flavor a the same time. I decided to use it for scrambled eggs, so that I could taste it with a clean palate. Although you could mainly taste the eggs, there was a warmth there and every other bite or so you would get a hint of the spices. In theory I think this is a great idea. I just don’t think this exact spice mix was right for me. There was something about it I didn’t quite like. Perhaps I should make my own.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 6